Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

with a little help from friends

the author's

the author’s

You know that saying ‘it takes a village’? Well, it does. For any endeavour worth remembering, it takes collaboration. Varied viewpoints, multiple hands, and a LOT of coordination. Witness my niece’s shower.

While I reap the accolades of my niece’s showers, it could never have happened w/out the help of my 3 sisters and a couple of their best friends — what we call ‘sisters-of-the-heart.’ All showed up a day before the shower and swept floors, tidied, and then the day OF the shower made cucumber sandwiches, spread egg salad, cut circles out of bread FOR the sandwiches, and generally did whatever needed to be done, as I made tea, and generally acted like my father the colonel. :)

Who do you rely on in your life? Who is always there for you? As I mentioned, not always are the people who have your back your ‘blood’ family. But they’re no less your chosen folks. In my case? I’m lucky that my best friends include my sisters (and their sisters! :) ). My friends are doers, makers, creators, and worker bees. Not a drone among them — the men work every bit as hard in this un-bee-like ecosystem.

Ernest Shephard, via google

Ernest Shephard, via google

And as you can see, it was a BIG shower for my niece (seated in the heart of her friends & family!). This doesn’t even include those who left early — one sister to attend a funeral, a sister-of-the-heart because she wasn’t feeling well, and others who had to work. This is just ‘most’ of my niece’s maternal aunts & cousins.

Making something like this happen — from the initial lists of invitees to the final sack of tissue Liz took out to the trash as she left — everyone pitched in. They bussed end tables, served as Shower Stork (handing out the many presents), loaded the dishwasher and generally lent their hands.

There’s only one catch to this incredible team work: sometimes, you have to ask folks. You have to be able to reach out. And no, this isn’t always easy. But as I move along my beginner’s path, I’m learning this: my friends & family mind my asking no more than I mind when they need my support. When one sister calls to talk about her classes, or another wants to talk over what to buy for a shower gift, or another needs me to print something at the last minute? I’m there. As they are for me.

So don’t forget: you really aren’t alone. You have all the people who love you, ready & waiting for you to turn to them. And don’t we all get by better w/ a little help from our friends?

talking to strangers

via google

via google

I know, your mother told you not to. But now you’re a grown-up, and I beg you to reconsider. You’re sooo missing out!

Yesterday I had the loveliest conversation with two strangers — two of the many I meet daily. Two of the many I almost always talk to (much to the eye-rolling of my beloved!). One of yesterday’s visits was at the place where I get my nails done (I can NOT go to my niece’s shower w/ ratty nails!). A lovely woman several years older than I am had driven in from McAlester (about 3 hours from Tulsa) to celebrate her big birthday. She’s 3 years into her breast cancer survivorship, and glad to be alive. In for a facial & makeover, she & I talked as we waited.

She has a son & daughter — the son lives near his parents. Her husband is recovering from a heart attack/ stint operation several years ago, and we discussed the rôle of caregivers. Her insights were helpful, as I work through my beloved’s fall, and now the birth of a grandchild w/ some challenges. It wasn’t only her giving to me, I hope, though: I listened. And (I hope she could tell) I learned.

The other was with a new employee at the salon where I was waiting. We chatted about the demise of a small restaurant nearby, and exchanged the currency humans have tendered for millennia: ‘gossip.’ Why the restaurant closed, the lack of people skills on the part of the otherwise immensely talented chef. And connected, word by shared word.

via google

via google

Listening (and learning) are grossly neglected in today’s hectic culture. Whatever you worry you don’t offer, you have ears. You have a face that can show you’re listening, that you care. How important that is! And if you share a bit of your life, with the stranger who shares his or hers? That’s the connection between us all made manifest. I breathe in, you breathe out. I talk, you hear. You talk, I hear. And BAM! We’re obviously connected, even though we were connected by so many other tenuous threads before we ever met.

I know — it sounds both hoodoo-ey and roll-your-eyes disingenuous. But trust me: it’s also impeccable Buddhism. The ability to offer your listening human heart to a stranger? Who may just need a touch on the arm, a smile, a moment of your attention? Wow — how often have each of us been touched by just those infinitely precious gifts?

So tomorrow? I’m going to sit for at least 5 minutes w/ the woman married to my niece’s husband’s co-worker, who is driving in w/ her pre-schooler to attend the shower. She will know no one but my niece. And soon, I hope, me. After all, it’s all about strangers…and connection…and beginner’s heart.


more on time (and acceptance)

the author's

the author’s

I was thinking today about how much I dislike meditating. Not the actual act, but the resistance I have to just doing it. KNOWING that sometime during the day, I should take out the time to sit down and breathe. Now really: how hard is that??

Hard. As hard as adult tonsillectomies. As hard as graduate school. As hard as anything the didn’t involve someone actually dying. And I’m maybe only 1/4 kidding…

Unlike preparing for my niece’s shower, I can’t seem to get in to the idea of meditation. Believe me, I know the benefits: health, peace, happiness. Focus, clarity, love. ad infinitum. But I still can’t make it ‘fun.’

So today, I read some on meditation. Wondering how to meet this resistance w/ compassion. Treating our own selves with understanding & sympathy is, as I’ve written many times, hard. But resisting the basic building block of Buddhism?? I don’t get to do that. ‘Just do it’ is one option, of course. That’s what happens many days. Still, I’d like to understand just why this is so difficult for me (even though all the lit says it’s hard for everyone, I’m sure I’m the worst one ever… :) )

Part of it is that I’m not used to having time. I squander it, I know — sit in the sun on the deck, when it’s even a bit warm, and just bask in the light. Eat poetry, as Mark Strand said. Colour w/ pencils, bake, drink tea. Daydream. These all seem so very important. And so they are. And there’s time, now, for all of this. Which has never ever been the case. Maybe I can accept that.

Acceptance is the key. I need to work on accepting my unloveably fallible resistance. Because how weird is resisting the resistance, as my guided meditation the other reminded me? That’s what I’m doing, I realise (it only took me 3 days of resisting to figure this out!). And to accept something you don’t like about yourself is a whole other level of ‘letting go.’

What is there in your life that you resist? What would happen if you just said, yep. That’s really really hard, and I hate it. And then forgave yourself for feeling cranky, but STILL DID the thing that caused you all the crazy?

I’m not sure what will happen. But that’s my goal this next few months: let go of resisting the resistance, and just accept that I’m not happy about meditating. And still do it. We’ll see what happens.

the journey (taking the time)…

Ernest Shephard drawing, via flickr

Ernest Shephard drawing, via flickr

All week I’ve been on a journey. Well, you  might call it ‘preparing.’ But to me, it’s a journey towards Saturday. Begun (thank you, flu) a full week later than it should have started.

Saturday is my niece’s shower, which I’m giving. 24 family members & friends, all here. For tea. Classic, traditional, afternoon tea. With four tea stations, sweets and savouries, and 2 kinds of decadent cake. One — the berry chantilly cake, from Whole Foods — apparently had achieved cult status even among non-foodies. Who knew??

So I’ve been counting tea cups (yes, I have enough) and teapots (ditto) and tea plates (just don’t expect all of these to match!). My sisters have been printing off the Winnie the Pooh theme materials (sister 4), shuffling work schedules (sister 3), and talking through all the choices (sister 2). Invites were sent out around Christmas, and the procrastinating RSVPers have been rounded up. Somewhere between 19-24. Did I mention there’s flu in Oklahoma?

Today was find-a-new-tea day. I had an excuse to go to Teavana! Whoohoo! I have all kinds of classic teas — the decaf Darjeeling my niece drinks while she’s pregnant, the house black, the house green. But I’m a bit low in the ‘tea for folks who think they may not like tea’ category. Because every one in my family does (like tea).

via flickr

via flickr

I came home w/ 4 new teas, blended masterfully by the young woman at the counter. She also made me take a paper cup of hot tea, the test run for one of the mixes. Matamoro white peach and honeybush vanilla, in case you wondered. That’s what I’m serving early in the shower, at the ‘tea for folks who may not like it’ station.

And in case you’re thinking: this has zip to do w/ beginner’s heart? Think again. If you look at any celebration — especially one fêting such a life-changing event as a first child, and for 24 folks! — you see preparation. You see lists (I have at least 5, to date), shopping (three trips so far, the big one still to come), coordinating, and a lot of time. But if you enjoy all that, it’s no problem. And I do — I adore tea parties!

Like so much of life, there’s a metaphor here. Will the cakes & scones & teas & tea sandwiches be wonderful? I certainly hope (and I’m guessing yes, in case you wonder). Will I have a wonderful time watching my beloved niece, and my cousins, and her friends, and my sisters, all enjoy themselves? Sure. But I’m also having a marvellous time journeying towards Saturday — visiting w/ the knowledgeable (& very generous) Teavana clerk. She just GAVE me 24 honey spoons! How nice was that?

And it’s been soooo much fun talking to my sisters daily about decorations, and teas, and food, and invitees. We even managed to talk one of our sisters-of-the-heart to join us.

In other words, I always knew the shower would be fun. But as I’m finding w/ more & more of my life, the journey is every bit as enjoyable, if you take the time to do just that: enjoy it.

Kind of like not wolfing down the cake, maybe? Anyway — it’s a good thing to remind myself of. Time. To smell the new tea, to remember my mother handling the silver we’ll use  — hers. Time to celebrate this day, this moment. And not just hurry through it all to get to Saturday.





Previous Posts

getting the humanities out to the humans
If you're not realllllly sure what the humanities are, you're in good company. When I tell folks I work w/ the state Humanities Council, they look almost as uneasy as when I tell them I write poetry (I don't confes

posted 5:26:52pm Jan. 31, 2015 | read full post »

choosing happy
Someone in my family -- probably either Aunt Bonnie or Grandmother Britton -- used to say that you choose to be happy. Each morning, she told me, you make that choice. It's a decision. So today? I'm choosing

posted 3:50:11pm Jan. 30, 2015 | read full post »

some periods you just breathe through...
At times like this, I don't know what I'd do w/out tonglen. When I'm grieving for a loved one's unhappiness, or breathing through my own, I remember: all over the world there is suffering. I know - how hokey is

posted 4:20:37pm Jan. 28, 2015 | read full post »

the fragrance of peaches
I wish I could send out, over the ethernet, the fragrance of the peach tea I made today. I wish there was a way to bottle the steam spiralling from the cup, comforting on a worrying day. Often when I worry, it

posted 12:11:07pm Jan. 26, 2015 | read full post »

with a little help from friends
You know that saying 'it takes a village'? Well, it does. For any endeavour worth remembering, it takes collaboration. Varied viewpoints, multiple hands, and a LOT of coordination. Witness my niece's shower. W

posted 5:00:00pm Jan. 25, 2015 | read full post »

Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.